How to become an awesome public speaker

Giving a talk at a conference, workshop, or presentation in your career field many times presents a good networking opportunity and makes you more memorable to your co-workers. Not everyone feels comfortable talking in front of groups, though. Some fear public speaking; others have simply never had any training or experience in how to address a crowd.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to get started as a public speaker, here are some tried-and-true pointers from public speaking professionals.

Connect With Your Listeners.
By being the speaker in the front of the room, you become the expert in the audience’s mind. Rather than trying to capitalize on the distinction between expert and audience, let the audience know you’re a real person, a colleague, and (most importantly) one of them.

Keep It Simple.
It may be tempting to show off the depths of your knowledge on your subject. This is likely to bore or lose the audience. Distill your information down to its most digestible parts and share these.

Memorize Your Talk.

“Winging it” is much harder than it may seem. The best way to feel relaxed and comfortable – and therefore more attractive to your audience – is to know your material well. Give yourself a well-defined “road map” you can return to if you start to wander off topic during your presentation. Make sure you have enough time to rehearse until you have the material down cold.

Record Yourself Practicing.

Record yourself on video while you’re rehearsing. Then watch yourself. You’ll get a preview of what your audience will see while you still have the opportunity to correct any issues such as slouching, distracting hand gestures, or repeating yourself.

Use Slides Sparingly.
Slides with small type can be difficult for the audience to read. If overused, the slides themselves become the focus of attention rather than your message. Keep your presentation moving along at a brisk pace by making your ideas, not the slides, the center of your communication.

Visit Your Venue Beforehand.
If you’ll be giving a talk in an unfamiliar location, visit it before your presentation is scheduled, if possible. This will also help you feel relaxed and comfortable. You won’t worry about where to stand and how to find the lights, the electrical outlets, the nearest restroom, etc.

Public speaking doesn’t have to be intimidating. With a few tips, you can address any audience simply and comfortably. If you still don’t feel prepared to volunteer for a public speaking engagement, look for a public speaking course at a local learning center or community college.

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